An icon of the sea and high watchmaking. The Runabout Automatic collection by Frederique Constant celebrates the legendary wooden craft that saw their heyday in the 1960s, favourites of the international jetset. (Here all our posts about Frederique Constant).
Runabout: an important piece of nautical history
Because it’s all in the name – Runabout. It’s more than just a word, it’s a term that identifies and defines an important piece of nautical history that still fascinates motorboat enthusiasts. Their charm is, in fact, very hard to resist. They have become objects of desire for many collectors, but these boats were created in the US in the early 20th century. They were built by yards like Hacker-Craft and Chris Craft, which developed a solid reputation with this sort of design. The hulls were built of wood, an obligatory choice at the time, and were propelled by powerful engines.
Their shape embraced a concept of form dictated by the need to provide excellent performance, for at the time these craft were often used as fast form of water transport, like the fast commuters New York businessmen used to reach their holiday homes in the Hamptons. The need for high performance inspired a design that has become a benchmark of elegance. Take, for example, the Riva Aquarama, which is still regarded as one of the most beautiful boats ever.
They were developed by the engineer Carlo Riva, who succeeded in adding an unmistakable touch of elegance to the typical efficiency of this type of craft, creating what is still admired as a style icon. The Aquarama has also been a source of inspiration in other fields, starting with car industry. In 1969 Marcello Gandini created a custom-built vehicle, calling it Runabout. Boats, cars and now watches, thanks to Frederique Constant.
Frederique Constant: the Runabout Automatic
The Swiss luxury watchmaker has been celebrating Runabouts since 2009 and became a partner of the Riva Historical Society in 2013. The aim of the organisation is to promote the culture and passion surrounding these boats, which have entered pleasure craft history, through rallies and a varied programme of activities. The partnership has culminated in a fully-fledged collection called, of course, Runabout Automatic.
The latest arrivals take the form of two limited editions of 888 examples. As with the previous collections, this new family of timepieces expresses the typical elegance of the Runabouts. This means a design where style, freed from the demands of trends and fashions of the moment, highlights the brand’s expertise. While for the runabouts the distinctive element is the way the master carpenters knew how to work a noble material like wood, in the new collection the dial displays a new guilloché finish embellished with a Clous de Paris pattern.
This is not simply an aesthetic frill – the finish was developed to enhance legibility of the information on the dial by using micro-reliefs that prevent reflections of direct light. The central decoration, though, worked in guilloché on a silver or black background, makes it possible to capture every ray of light. Another distinctive element in the new Runabout Automatic collection is the large applied Arabic numerals and the slender, pointed hour and minute hands. The rose gold-plated or steel hands coordinate with the 42mm case. The seconds hand of the version with steel hands is finished in an unmistakable turquoise colour. Finally, the collection is powered by the calibre FC-303, a movement that can be admired through the sapphire exhibition back, engraved with the RHS logo.